As a working mother of 2 young boys, I look forward to the day when my boys can safely rule the roost on their own (and for my older one to babysit his little brother – yahoo!). However, I worry… What if intruders came to the door? What if the boys wrecked the house? What if something happened to one of them and I wasn’t there to care for them?
Also, when can I leave my child home alone? As I found out, the answer is not black and white – it is decidedly grey. Halton Children’s Aid Society (CAS) recommends that children should be at least 10 years old to be home alone and at least 12 years old to look after other children (including siblings).
Knowing the recommendations from Halton CAS, blowing out the candles on their 10th birthday cake does not make children magically ready – mentally, emotionally or physically – to manage being at home alone.
Before leaving a child at home alone, a parent must consider:
- Is your child ready? Think of your child’s maturity level and his or her temperament. Do they want to be home alone? Will they be pacing the halls until you return, or will they be jumping with joy (not on the bed) with this new-found independence?
- Are you ready? Many parents are nervous about leaving children home alone. Will YOU be pacing the floor?
- Have you been practicing? Have you had lots of discussion and run through some ‘what if’ scenarios such as “what if the power went out?”
- Do you have family rules? Only a couple, clear and simple (not a hundred highly detailed regulations listed on the fridge).
- Are emergency contacts (names, numbers) readily available? Has the child practiced how/when to use them?
- If they are looking after a sibling consider how they get along. Will the younger child listen to the older one? Do they tend to fight a lot (especially when you are not looking)?
Whether you are relatively “okay” with the idea of leaving your child home alone, or a tad paranoid about it (like me), Halton Region has information and resources to help you make your decision.
Rebecca Lewis, RN has been working as a Public Health Nurse in Halton Region for 12 years. She provides support to schools and families of elementary school aged children and enjoys parenting her 2 boys.
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